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This weekend, I attended my first fetish convention and it was quite an eye-opener.
For my part, I've been active in the fetish scene for about a year. During this time, I've been very much enjoying kink exploration with various experienced partners. I had private one-on-one adventures at first but then moved on to attending play parties (where the goal is to have sexual, sensual, or kink play with the person you came with and/or with people you meet there) at private homes and then eventually going to sex clubs with a partner, usually on the club's fetish night.
In this year, I've been lucky enough to have dated several women who introduced me to their favorite kinks, most of which revolved around BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism). Nowadays, I even keep a duffle bag of my own BDSM equipment in the trunk of my car so that I'm always ready for the next adventure.
With all this experience, I thought I was prepared for what I would witness at my first fetish convention, but I was wrong.
This weekend, Austin hosted GWNN's annual conference (so if you're an Austinite and you saw higher than usual occurrences of bondage wear and leather kilts, now you know why).
GWNN, also known as the equally anonymous "Group With No Name", is more than just a fetish organization. It exists to provide advocacy and acceptance to those interested in various BDSM lifestyles and education for those who want to learn more about advanced techniques and various niche fetishes. It also provides ample social interaction for everyone in the community.
GWNN Bash, the fetish conference held last weekend, held training classes and demonstrations, keeping five classrooms packed with interested students for all three days of the conference. (Yes, three days. And yes, I took Friday off of work so that I could enjoy all of it.)
In addition to the classes, there was also a one-of-a-kind library filled with historical and current BDSM references. For a researcher like myself, I could have spent weeks in that library absorbing everything from the essential to the esoteric.
Like any good conference, GWNN Bash had a vendor's room, card tables, and booths stocked with wares, both hand-made and mass-produced. Only this vendor's room included whips, floggers, corsets, adult pacifiers, and an assortment of Master/slave jewelry. (Note to self: next year, set a budget so I don't overspend.) Bash also had a silent auction of similar items (I missed owning a spanking bench by $5).
Like any good fetish event, GWNN Bash also had an all-day play party, a.k.a. the Dungeon, where you could watch or experience people being tied to various BDSM furniture and spanked, flogged, whipped, etc. In addition, a pair of events that makes Bash unique are the additional Men-only and Women-only play parties. This is just one of the ways that GWNN is inclusive to everyone. All of the play parties ended at 2:00 AM each night and classes started at 9:00 each morning so by Sunday there were a lot of exhausted kinksters.
I personally attended classes on Primal (including Primal play, woodland hunts, and how Primal differs from Furry), on CBT (a.k.a. Cock and Ball Torture, a kink I am not at all into but I challenged myself to see if I could survive watching the 90 minute demo. Which I did. Barely.), and one other topic. It's this other topic that shocked me.
That topic was Consent. I was surprised and enormously pleased to discover how important consent was to the members of GWNN.
Wait. Let me rephrase that.
Anyone and everyone involved in kink should have a thorough understanding and respect for consent. I wouldn't associate with any person or organization who felt otherwise. What surprised me was the dedication to the topic. There was an entire three-day track dedicated to the topic of consent. These classes were held in the largest classroom and the number of participants grew with every session.
To give one example of the sessions, there was one on how to negotiate the details for your kink play whether it's with a new or a familiar partner. And I can guarantee these negotiations are nothing like what you experienced from Fifty Shades of Grey. These negotiations should include all the questions necessary to ensure maximum safety to both parties as well as maximum enjoyment.
I spent the majority of my time at GWNN Bash attending these consent classes. There is nothing more important to kink, to sex, to dating, to existing with other humans, than a thorough understanding of consent and I applaud any organization who holds it in such high regard.
Well done, GWNN.